Month: August 2021

Rise of ‘nones’ might be waning, State of the Bible 2021 suggests

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (BP) – The rise of the “nones” or religiously unaffiliated might be waning, the American Bible Society (ABS) said in findings focused on Gen Z in the 2021 State of the Bible report.

Gen Z members also haven’t decided whether Scripture can help sustain American ideals including democracy and justice, nor whether the Bible is truer than the Koran and the Book of Mormon, ABS said in releasing the data Tuesday (Aug. 10).

Historically a study of how adults interact with Scripture, this year’s State of the Bible includes the opinions and perceptions of Gen Z, which spans ages 9-24, and studies Gen Z youth as a subset spanning ages 15-17. ABS compares Gen Z findings to beliefs and trends reported about Millennials and older adults in the same report.

“Zooming out, Gen Z’s halting steps toward Scripture are placed in the context of a meandering faith journey, occurring in both their generation and the nation,” ABS said in its report. “It remains to be seen how much of this effect will be cultural or generational – a matter of fact or a matter of time.

“In this study, at least, both segments of Gen Z (36 percent of Gen Z youth and adults) as well as Millennials (34 percent) are equally likely to be non-Christians, and recent data suggest the so-called ‘rise of the Nones’ (religiously unaffiliated people) may be stalling.”

Gen Z members are exploring, questioning their beliefs and seeking their path in the world, ABS said, which could lead to various outcomes that either deconstruct, weaken or strengthen their faith.

“As Gen Z wrestles with the tumult of emerging adulthood, the Bible can provide them with guidance to navigate challenges and opportunities with wisdom and grace,” ABS said. “However, Gen Z – especially Gen Z youth – has a precarious relationship with the Bible.”

Among findings:

10 percent of Gen Z youth, 17 percent of Gen Z and 21 percent of Millennials describe themselves as practicing Christians;
54 percent of Gen Z youth, 47 percent of Gen Z and 45 percent of Millennials describe themselves as non-practicing Christians;
36 percent of both Gen Z youth and Gen Z adults said they are non-Christian, compared to 34 percent of Millennials;
81 percent of Gen Z youth and 74 percent of Gen Z adults said they are curious about Scripture;
64 percent of Gen Z youth said they wished they read the Bible more;
33 percent of Gen Z said they “neither agree nor disagree” that the Bible, the Koran, and the Book of Mormon are “all different expressions of the same spiritual truths;”
Gen Z youth were more likely than older Gen Z members to say they “neither agree nor disagree” that Scripture is essential to upholding Democracy (51 percent of Gen Z youth vs. 34 percent of Gen Z adults), essential to upholding justice (37 percent vs. 26 percent), love (30 percent vs. 19 percent), and hope (29 percent vs. 18 percent);
35 percent of Gen Z said they strongly disagree or somewhat disagree that, “The Bible contains everything a person needs to know to live a meaningful life,” while 27 percent said they neither agree nor disagree.

“While Gen Z was not decided on key questions,” ABS said it “could not say whether the responses were the result of indecision or relativism.

“For all the handwringing about Millennials, Gen Z’s immediate elders suggest the picture can change significantly even in one’s late twenties and thirties, where adults show higher levels of Bible engagement, confidence in their own beliefs, and engagement with their faith.”

ABS encourages churches to “support faith formation for emerging adults by welcoming their questions and helping them engage with the Bible for themselves. In addition, Bible engagement, prayer and spiritual relationships have been shown to be keys to strengthening the spiritual formation of emerging adults, including those in Gen Z.”

The full report, based on research conducted in January, can be downloaded here. The online study included 3,354 complete responses from a sample of adults representative of all 50 states and the District of Columbia, including 91 Gen Z youth ages 15-17.

Christian Women’s Leadership Center equips women through online learning

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.(BP) – Christian Women’s Leadership Center, an initiative of Woman’s Missionary Union, has offered lifelong learning opportunities for Christian women for more than 20 years.

While the Leadership Center’s overall vision and goals remain unchanged, the practical details of providing those learning opportunities are continually being fine-tuned to keep pace with growing and changing needs.

Today, “the primary component of CWLC is online learning,” explained CWLC Coordinator Kristy Carr, who also serves as national WMU’s senior hub manager. She said CWLC currently offers “nine solid, insightful courses for the purpose of leadership development.” 

The nine courses explore such diverse topics as “Women Leaders from the Past,” “Biblical and Theological Foundations of Leadership” and “Leading with Integrity.” The self-paced courses are available online to participants on a rotating basis each quarter.

Church and community leadership

The CWLC was established by national WMU in 1999 in partnership with Samford University. Housed on Samford’s campus for more than a decade, it primarily focused on leadership education opportunities for college women and networking events for professional women in the Birmingham area.

In recent years, the center’s home moved to the national WMU building as the CWLC’s focus shifted to “equipping Christian laywomen in the area of leadership in the context of their Christian faith,” Carr said.

As early as 2013, CWLC began offering online leadership training for women seeking resources in the area of church and community leadership. Today, CWLC has expanded to include a full certificate program for women who complete the nine online courses which represent about 150 hours of coursework.

“Through CWLC, we recognize and we celebrate the giftedness of women,” Carr said. “We seek to assist them in developing their gifts and skills in serving Christ as they undertake leadership opportunities and responsibilities.”

Helping leaders get out of the box

Ina Rios, president of New York WMU, was among the recipients of last year’s Candy P. Phillips WMU Leadership Award. The annual award, established in 2019, provides funding for emerging leaders to enroll in CWLC’s online certificate program.

Affirming the impact of her CWLC learning experience, Rios said, “For me, it gave me a deeper understanding of what’s required to be a faithful leader that wants to work within the Great Commission and it gave me tools on how to be a better leader.”

When it comes to pursuing leadership training and ministry opportunities, “women have to get out of the box,” Rios said. “We have to see things differently so we can see what the Lord is doing in other places and in other ways.

“When we get out of the box, we become energized. By being energized, other people get energized and the Lord gets glorified and the church gets edified.”

At the forefront of online learning

Amanda Martinsen, leadership development consultant and resource coordinator for WMU of North Carolina, serves as a CWLC course facilitator for the program’s “Missional Living” course. She said the course is designed for participants to examine “what it looks like to be on mission with God every single day, the way that God is using them not only in their churches, but in their communities.”

Martinsen noted that CWLC has been “at the forefront of a lot of the online learning” since its online courses were well established “long before the pandemic hit.”

“It was wonderful to already have that in place and to be able to point people to that resource,” she said, “especially in light of the last year that we’ve walked through of church looking so different.”

Citing student reflections about their CWLC learning experiences, Carr shared that one participant wrote: “I took these courses to become a better leader and, in the process, I became a better follower, a better communicator, a better planner. I became a woman God can use.”

As WMU emphasizes “making disciples of Jesus who live on mission,” CWLC’s focus on equipping women leaders God can use is one practical step in achieving that goal.


The Christian Women’s Leadership Center is funded in part by the Dr. Eleanor Terry Endowment for Christian Women’s Leadership. The fund, managed by the WMU Foundation, honors the memory of Dr. Terry, who helped plan CWLC’s launch and direction. To donate or to learn more, visit

Middle Eastern men yield to Christ, an answer to years of prayer

A group of Central Asian believers gathers weekly to pray for one another and for each of their respective ministries among Muslims in Moscow.

For just a moment, put yourself in the place of IMB missionary Andrew Lee*.

Imagine you are on a video call with three men from the Middle East. You lean in toward the grainy screen to hear their collective stories of how they fled their war-torn country and finally made it to Europe in search of a better life. They each tell you of their friendship with a believer named Abraham* who had also been a refugee out of the same area in the Middle East many years before. Abraham had a deep love for these three friends. He prayed for them for many years and shared the gospel with them when he could.

Envision yourself listening intently as the men tell you about their unease when they read the Muslim holy book. To them, the words seem to promote hate, spiritual slavery and war. The more they study, the more they see a god who is portrayed as distant, cold and indifferent to people and their pain.

They share with you that through friendship with Abraham and other believers, they experienced the love of Jesus and heard the good news. The men were fascinated by the Bible where they read about the true God who desires a personal relationship with people. Coming from a works-based religion with fear they would lose their salvation with any misstep, the men were shocked and overwhelmed with a sense of peace when they heard the truth from John 10:27-28 for the first time: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 2 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

Jesus is the one who gives eternal life, and you cannot lose your salvation! Imagine hearing that truth for the very first time.

While the men have a growing interest in the Jesus of the Bible, two of them have not yet accepted Jesus.  They know exactly what it would mean: rejection by friends and family and possible persecution.

As the hour-long video conversation continues, you share the gospel once more with the two men and patiently answer their pressing questions. “Why did Jesus have to die?” “How can God have a Son?” “What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus?”

Near the end of the conversation, you say to them: “What prevents you from receiving Jesus as your Savior right now?”

A deafening silence settles over the call. No one will look directly at the computer’s camera. You pray quietly in your head, begging God to soften their hearts. One man covers his face with his hands. Another continues to look down at the table.

Finally, one of them answers: “I’m not ready.”

The other man quickly says the same thing. Your heart sinks and you inhale a shaky breath, but before you can utter the first word of your response, one of the men speaks suddenly.

“Actually, I am ready.”

You exhale a silent praise for the Spirit’s work in this man’s heart.

Then the other man also speaks up and says he is ready! You can hardly stop smiling as you close your eyes and lead the men in prayer at the end of the call.

Praise the Lord for Abraham, Andrew and the believers who faithfully shared the gospel with Hadi* and Abu* who are now brothers in Christ. They are studying the Bible and growing in their faith.

You can join the story by praying for protection for those who are new in their faith and praying for the missionaries like Andrew who are at work right now building relationships and sharing the gospel. You can also help by giving specifically to provide Bibles to individuals just like the men in this story who are hungry for God’s Word.

Eisabeth Cutrer is a contributing writer for the IMB.

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Churches encouraged to #FillTheTank

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) – The annual Southern Baptist emphasis on baptism is coming up Sept. 12, and the North American Mission Board (NAMB) is encouraging churches to celebrate by baptizing new believers who have recently made professions of faith.

“Our theme for Baptism Sunday is, ‘Fill the Tank,’” said Johnny Hunt, NAMB’s senior vice president for evangelism and leadership. “We want churches to fill their baptismal tanks so those who have trusted Jesus for salvation are able to follow Christ’s example and obey the command to be baptized that Sunday.”

NAMB’s evangelism team has produced resources to help a church plan for Baptism Sunday along with evangelism resources, which are free for pastors, that help train church members to share the hope of the Gospel.

“Our aim is to encourage pastors and churches to make much of Jesus on Sept. 12 and encourage those who have been born again to follow through in believer’s baptism,” Hunt said.

The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) has been encouraging North Carolina churches to participate under the leadership of newly elected executive director Todd Unzicker.

“I love seeing people profess new life in Christ,” Unzicker said in an upcoming episode of the Evangelism with Johnny Hunt podcast. “I’m a Baptist by choice. I wasn’t born into this, and if we can’t come together around baptism, then we might as well all go home. We are Baptists.”

Baptism Sunday provides an opportunity for Southern Baptists to remind one another about the need to reach their communities, share the Gospel and call new believers to follow through in believers’ baptism.

“Here is what I asked a church I spoke at recently,” Unzicker said. “‘If the Lord saved every single lost person you prayed for by name, how many would be in the Kingdom of God today from just last week?’”

During the conversation, Unzicker also described how he has heard about North Carolina churches more intentionally praying for those who need Jesus in their communities and starting sermon series on evangelism in the lead up to Sept. 12.

Hunt said that pastors should also consider calling those who have yet to follow through in believer’s baptism to be obedient to Christ’s command on Baptism Sunday.

“Baptism is a sign of obedience as a profession of faith. It’s not about reaching a level of spiritual maturity,” Hunt said. “I didn’t have any spiritual background when I was saved, and there was a lot I didn’t know about Christianity when I was baptized. What I did know was that the Holy Spirit was stirring in my heart and that I was changed.”

Hunt said the current trend in churches to call for immediate response baptisms, should not be viewed as a gimmick. It is possible that some may have abused such calls to be baptized, but the New Testament pattern indicates that there was an immediate call for new believers to be baptized.

“I would never urge a pastor or a church to baptize someone who seemed unsure of their salvation,” Hunt said. “The call to immediate baptism is about creating an opportunity and inviting people to be obedient. It is not about boosting numbers or manipulating emotions.”

Elevation Worship, Zach Williams, for KING & COUNTRY lead Dove nods

NASHVILLE (BP) – Elevation Worship, Zach Williams and for KING & COUNTRY highlight the list of nominated artists for the 52nd annual GMA Dove Awards, which were announced via livestream Wednesday (Aug. 11).

Elevation Worship received seven nominations, including a joint nomination with Brandon Lake in the “Worship Recorded Song of the Year,” category for their hit “Graves into Gardens.” Lake also received seven individual nominations.

Another song by Elevation Worship (featuring Maverick City Music), titled “Jireh,” was also nominated in the category as well as “Battle Belongs,” by Phil Wickham, “God So Loved,” by We The Kingdom and “Peace Be Still,” by Hope Darst.

Elevation’s lead singer Chris Brown and pastor Steven Furtick also each earned nine and 10 nominations respectively.

Artists nominated for the “Artist of the Year,” category include Lauren Daigle, for KING & COUNTRY, Zach Williams, Phil Wickham and Elevation Worship. The former three artists have won the award in previous years.

Other notable artists receiving nominations include CeCe Winans, Lecrae, Crowder, Maverick City Music, Hillsong UNITED and Carrie Underwood.

Multiple artists announced the nominees in the livestream, including Skillet’s John Cooper, Tauren Wells, Kari Jobe and Bill and Gloria Gaither.

A full list of the nominees can be seen here.

After last year’s Dove Awards was prerecorded with no live audience, this year’s show will take place live in Nashville at Allen Arena Tuesday, Oct. 19. It will then air on TBN Friday, Oct. 22, at 8 p.m. Eastern.

Jackie Patillo, president and executive director of the Gospel Music Association, reflected during the livestream about the past year and spoke to how music plays a role in uniting people of faith.

“As we reflect over the past year, like many of you, the Christian and Gospel music community has gone through highs and lows,” Patillo said. “However, in spite of it all, music has been a source of encouragement and hope.

“My prayer is that God would continue to unite us and to guide us as we remember to celebrate his goodness. This is about more than lights and a shiny statue. It’s about coming together and presenting all our diverse styles, sounds and cultures to celebrate God’s power, faithfulness and his message of hope.”

A limited number of tickets for this year’s show, themed “Stronger Together,” are available online now.

Lankford saves Hyde amendment with late-night move

WASHINGTON (BP) – Opponents of taxpayer funding of abortion gained an encouraging victory in the U.S. Senate late Tuesday (Aug. 10) to the satisfaction of the Southern Baptist Convention’s ethics entity.

During consideration of a budget resolution, senators approved in a 50-49 vote an amendment by Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., that bars federal funds from being used to pay for abortions. The amendment also blocks funding for government programs that discriminate against individual health care professionals or institutions that object to abortion.

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia provided the deciding vote for the measure. He joined all the Republicans who were present in the evenly divided chamber in support of Lankford’s amendment. Manchin joined his Democratic colleagues to approve the amended, $3.5 trillion budget plan by a single vote.

Southern Baptist public policy specialist Chelsea Sobolik described Lankford’s effort as “certainly helpful for the pro-life cause.”

“As lawmakers craft legislation, they should start from a foundation that protects life – something that has been a source of bipartisan agreement for decades,” said Sobolik, acting public policy director of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), in written comments. “This amendment restores that policy in this budget process.”

The ERLC urges the House of Representatives “to follow the Senate’s lead and ensure these important pro-life riders are part of the budget resolution,” she said.

The ERLC urged Senate leaders in a July 30 letter to restore long-standing, pro-life policies removed from spending bills by the House. The Democratic-controlled House had approved appropriations bills in late July that eliminated the Hyde Amendment and other measures that either prohibit federal funding of abortion or, as in the case of the Weldon Amendment, protect the conscience rights of pro-life health care workers and institutions.

The Hyde Amendment has barred federal funds in Medicaid and other programs from paying for abortions in every year since 1976. The Weldon Amendment has prohibited since 2004 government discrimination against pro-life health care providers and insurance plans.

Messengers to the 2021 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in June approved a resolution that denounced any attempt to rescind the Hyde Amendment and urged the retention of all pro-life “riders,” which must be approved each year in spending bills.

The Senate’s newly approved resolution is part of a Democratic maneuver known as “budget reconciliation,” which enables passage of legislation without the normal requirement of 60 votes to invoke cloture and halt a filibuster. In the reconciliation process, only a majority is required for passage. The Senate-passed resolution provides guidance for its committees in writing the actual budget bill for fiscal year 2022.

Though Lankford’s amendment is not binding, it apparently indicates supporters of long-standing pro-life policies have the necessary votes to retain such measures.

In a speech on the Senate floor before the vote, Lankford, a Southern Baptist, said his amendment would be consistent with the Hyde Amendment. Hyde “reflects a decades-long consensus that millions of Americans who profoundly are opposed to abortion should not be forced to pay for the taking of human lives of children or incentivize it with their taxpayer dollars,” he said.

“Millions of Americans of faith and of no faith know that the only difference between a child in the womb and outside the womb is time,” he said. “Just because they are smaller people doesn’t mean they should be any less protected by law.”

Lankford’s amendment was one of more than 40 such measures considered during a lengthy “vote-a-rama,” as it is known, that did not conclude until nearly 4 a.m. (EDT) Wednesday (Aug. 11). Republican Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota was absent because of a medical need in his family.

The ERLC included the protection of pro-life “riders” in spending legislation as one of its priorities in its 2021 Public Policy Agenda. In May, it joined in a letter signed by more than 60 other pro-life advocates that asked Senate and House leaders to maintain the bans.

The Hyde Amendment – which includes exceptions for a threat to the mother’s life, rape and incest – has saved the lives of more than 2.4 million unborn children since its inception, according to an estimate in July 2020 by Michael New, veteran researcher and associate scholar of the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute.

Healthcare strategies growing in importance to the missionary task

“My question to you is what are you going to do to insure that there is an even brighter future tomorrow, in light of what Christ has done for you?” Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Adam Greenway said. He challenged MedAdvance attendees to write down their commitment to medical missions and lay it on the map, in what was reminiscent of an old fasted altar call at the closing of MedAdvance.

Richard and Emily Barfell came to the International Mission Board’s MedAdvance conference in the middle of their application process to serve as missionaries with the IMB. Richard is a doctor. Emily is a stay-at-home mom of two little girls.

Their most pressing question right now regarding their calling is where to serve. Because of the interactions they had with seasoned missionaries at the Aug. 5-7 MedAdvance conference, they left with more clarity and encouragement than they started with.

“We are just open to where God wants us to go. We already said, ‘yes, we want to be missionaries,’” Richard shared. “We’re hoping to be on the field soon, but we just don’t know where yet.”

Conference leaders explained that MedAdvance is an annual conference for healthcare professionals, students and church leaders to:

connect with IMB missionaries and leaders for networking and questions;
discover how God is at work as healthcare missionaries share stories from around the world;
learn how to serve God’s mission at home and overseas using God-given talents, skills and experiences in the healthcare field.

The 2021 conference was hosted by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Registration will remain open through Aug. 13 for those who’d like to view the recorded online version.

Leah Brown, affinity health strategy coach for the Americas, explains how water filters are advancing the IMB’s Revelation 7:9 vision during the Affinity Marathon. SWBTS Photo

By the first evening of the conference, the Barfells had already met two IMB missionaries. Both were serving in the Middle East. One couple, who has five kids, recently had to be evacuated due to political unrest.

Richard explained, “My question to [the missionary] was, ‘How in the world did you with five kids end up in [this area of the Middle East]’ Her answer to me was, ‘God just told me we needed to go there. We were just going to be obedient. And we had peace because of that.’”

The Barfells met another worker in the Middle East who is from their town. They’re planning to connect with the couple soon.

“The two missionaries we’ve already met were just obviously placed in our lives by God,” Richard said. “We’re just praying for more of that and for God to work through those interactions.”

Claire Duncan is a labor and delivery nurse. She’s in school to become a midwife so she can practice more independently. She and her husband feel called to the nations.

“I’ve just been really passionate about women’s health forever. I love my job. And I know my skills are needed. But I don’t know how to use them,” she shared.

She came to the conference to learn a little more about ways to put this passion to use overseas. Then her goal is to go home, pass her information on to her husband, and hopefully hear him say, “Sounds good. Let’s go.”

ABCs of healthcare missions

Dr. Rebekah Naylor, IMB’s global healthcare strategies consultant and organizer of the MedAdvance conference, shared that her team emphasizes the ABCs of medical missions to complement support the missionary task.

These ABCs are Access, Behind Closed Doors, Caring for Needs, Disciple Making, and Empowering the Church.

Naylor provided examples of how the IMB, through healthcare missions, is putting these ABCs into practice.

In a wealthy country, a doctor partnered with a for-profit clinic. Through that clinic, he has gained access to his primary people group of service from the local population.

In Central Asia, medical missionaries are granted access behind closed doors to Muslim women by providing pre- and post-natal care in the patients’ homes.  While meeting physical needs, they “share Bible stories and truths as they visit in homes,” Naylor shared.

Dr. Rebekah Naylor explains the Affinity Marathon to MedAdvance attendees. During the MedAdvance conference, the Affinity Marathon, was a highlight. In it, each of the IMB’s eight affinities shared with small groups of attendees how God is using healthcare missions to advance the gospel in their area. SWBTS Photo

In Africa, through hospice buckets, churches from the U.S. have been able to provide end-of-life care and dignity to terminally ill HIV patients living in horrific conditions.

As the U.S. churches partner with nationals, they care for needs. “This allows follow up by local churches. It is possible to express love and care to the patients and families and it is possible to share the good news,” Naylor explained.

Through an electroencephalogram, care is given to epileptics who, in many cultures, are ostracized. The doctor in the U.S. who reviews these scans, sent from a solar powered system overseas, diagnoses and prescribes medicine through local partners. He’s able to train and disciple nationals in this manner.

In East Asian factories, business owners have granted permission for health clinics to be set up for their workers. This is done in partnership with workers, national healthcare providers and local churches.

“They have found that the majority of patients they see opt to go to the gospel sharing station. There people from the local church are the ones sharing the good news. The response rate to the gospel has been 10-50%. The nationals are fully trained to lead. They establish churches within the factories themselves,” Naylor explained. In this manner, the local church is empowered.

This method of preaching and healing is what Jesus did during His ministry on earth, Naylor told attendees. The IMB’s healthcare strategies, “address spiritual and mental needs, as well as put believers in contact with unbelievers.”

“Let’s reach the nations together by praying, giving, going, and sending,” Dr. Naylor said, emphasizing the IMB’s Revelation 7:9 vision.

Health strategies advisory group

“The healthcare strategy network is the largest, most well-developed network we have in the IMB right now,” Dr. Rick Dunbar, chairman of the IMB’s newly-formed health strategies advisory group said.

“My question to you is what are you going to do to insure that there is an even brighter future tomorrow, in light of what Christ has done for you?” Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Adam Greenway said. He challenged MedAdvance attendees to write down their commitment to medical missions and lay it on the map, in what was reminiscent of an old fasted altar call at the closing of MedAdvance.

In order to aid in these efforts, the IMB’s health strategies team has pulled together individuals from varied backgrounds for the advisory group. Their goals, Dunbar shared, are to:

promote health strategies within U.S. organizations such as hospitals, healthcare companies, seminaries, medical and allied health training programs;
advise and promote partnerships between U.S.-based organizations for support of health strategies such as education, exchange programs, community health, continuing education;
advise and promote funding for health strategy projects;
advise and promote the globalization of health strategies.

This diverse group will bring the perspective of their varied spheres of influence, from healthcare to business professionals. One goal is to help bring awareness to medical professionals in the pews of Southern Baptist churches that their talents are crucial to reaching the nations, and they can partner with the IMB to do so.

“People are dying all over the world for lack of healthcare and the majority of them are dying without even the opportunity of hearing of Jesus’ love and eternal salvation,” Dunbar said.  “Healthcare gives credibility and opens many doors globally.”

Gretchen Brown, IMB’s affinity health strategy coach for Europe, shares with MedAdvance attendees some of the ways God is using healthcare to reach the nations of Europe. SWBTS Photo

He continued, “When you see God at work, you better follow Him. And right now, we see health strategies as where God is working powerfully.”

“We have more healthcare providers now than we’ve ever had in the history of the IMB,” Dunbar said, emphasizing the same fact that IMB President Paul Chitwood shared in a video address to attendees. “But we’re not satisfied; we want more.”

Want more MedAdvance?

Attendance at MedAdvance totaled 325 people. Of those, 70 were students and 95 were IMB personnel. Registration will be open through Aug. 13 for others wishing to participate in the virtual track. It includes the breakouts and recorded sessions. The virtual track will be available to those who registered Aug. 20-Sept. 30 with a livestream Q&A session on Sept. 16.

To find out how you can be involved in healthcare missions, visit

To help advance the gospel through medical missions among the nations, visit

Myriah Snyder is senior writer/editor for the IMB.

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Prestonwood continues legacy of missions

PLANO  Prestonwood Baptist Church continued its long legacy of commitment to missions with a recent gift of $1 million to the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and affirmation of the SBC’s Cooperative Program.

In July, the church presented the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention with a CP gift of just over $208,000. 

“The SBTC is extremely grateful for the sacrificial giving of churches to the Cooperative Program. Through CP giving, we can truly see the churches of the SBTC reach Texas and impact the world together,” said Nathan Lorick, SBTC executive director. “Through this generous gift, Prestonwood, under the incredible leadership of Dr. Jack Graham, is partnering with the SBTC and the SBC to accelerate the gospel’s advancement across our cities, state, nation, and ultimately to the ends of the earth.”

Prestonwood pastor Jack Graham presented a $1 million check to the IMB for ministry to Muslims during a Sunday worship service, Aug. 1. Pictured L-R: Mike Buster, Prestonwood executive pastor; Paul Chitwood and John Brady of the IMB; Graham. Photo submitted

Mike Buster, Prestonwood executive pastor, told the TEXAN that much of Prestonwood’s missions work is connected to the church’s relationships with the North American Mission Board, the International Mission Board and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. 

He also confirmed the church’s full commitment to the SBC’s Cooperative Program, calling CP a means by which Prestonwood can be part of “a larger movement of work across North America and into the world.”

On Aug. 1, pastor Jack Graham presented the IMB with the $1 million for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering as a special donation for use in reaching “fast-growing Muslim regions throughout the world,” Mike Buster, Prestonwood executive pastor, told the TEXAN.

The check was presented during a Sunday worship service.

Graham said the gift came from a surplus in the church’s giving during 2020, a time when many churches were struggling and national giving trended downward, Baptist Press reported.

Paul Chitwood, IMB president, with John Brady, IMB’s vice president for global engagement, shared the four specific ministry initiatives the gift will fund:

  • Training local believers as missionaries to the Persian world
  • Developing local believers to take the gospel to a Muslim group of 200 million in South Asia
  • Supporting 5 million Nigerian Baptists to reach surging Islamic growth in Africa
  • Training nurses in South and Southeast Asia to serve in hard-to-reach places

Graham said Prestonwood members truly believe that more can be done together than individually. That belief is the driving factor behind the church’s steadfast giving and going through the Southern Baptist Convention and the IMB and its general support of the Cooperative Program.

“The cooperative mission of our churches sets Southern Baptists apart and gives us the privilege of fulfilling the Great Commission together in our generation and in the generations to come. Our gift is just a small part of the faith collaboration of thousands of SBC churches for the glory of God and the advancement of the Kingdom of God.”

“The cooperative mission of our churches sets Southern Baptists apart and gives us the privilege of fulfilling the Great Commission together in our generation and in the generations to come.

A missions-first church

 Prestonwood’s commitment to the IMB and CP is only part of a myriad of local, state, national and international missions associated with the church. 

In comments to the TEXAN, Graham said the global impact of Prestonwood comes in the form of prayer, gifts and people. 

In its “last complete year” of service pre-COVID, Prestonwood provided more than $7.5 million to nearly 70 ministries in countries on five continents: “More than 1,500 members of the Prestonwood community served on nearly 75 short-term mission teams all over the world,” Graham said. “And the light shined brightly at home, with more than 10,000 members serving in the North Texas community.”

Mike Beeson, Prestonwood minister of missions, said the nearly 70 ministries supported by the church are in East Africa, East Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, North Africa and the Middle East, Europe and Russia, South America, South Asia, the United States and Canada.

“These bodies of work range from church planting movements in areas where the gospel message is absent, to training and other strategic initiatives to aid the growth of the local church,” Beeson said. “In locations where there is an absence of food, fresh water, health care and general necessities, Prestonwood’s global impact comes in the form of humanitarian relief from our compassion ministry, Prestonwood Cares, as the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.”

With its Hunger Project ministry, Prestonwood provided more than 1.25 million meals over the last 18 months to North Texas families in need. Prestonwood Christian Academy NHS students collected food for the effort. Instagram photo.

Recently, during the pandemic, one of Prestonwood’s compassion ministries, The Hunger Project, “provided more than 1.25 million meals in the last 18 months to food insecure individuals and families across North Texas,” Beeson added.

Prestonwood members have also filled some 200,000 gift shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child since 1994, when it became one of the first churches to partner with the Samaritan’s Purse ministry.

This article also contains reporting from Myriah Snyder of the International Mission Board.

IMB and Houston’s First Baptist Church to Host Free Missions Mobilization Events

Southeast Asia crowded city

IMB’s South Asia leadership and Houston’s First Baptist Church will host two free missions mobilization events, An Intro to South Asia and Becoming a Sending Church, October 4-5, to highlight the lostness in South Asia and how local churches can partner in the no place left vision.

As an epicenter for lostness, South Asia’s need for laborers grows daily.  These mobilization events offer local churches the opportunity to see how they can get involved.

At Intro to South Asia, participants will learn about the biblical foundation for missions as a priority, South Asia field realities, the IMB’s Affinity of South Asian Peoples vision and strategy with stories from the field, and ways local churches can get involved through prayer, projects, partnerships, and pipelines for sending.  Intro to South Asia will be held October 4 from 9 am to 2:30 pm at Houston’s First Baptist Church.

Becoming a Sending Church will focus on biblical missiology, a brief overview of the South Asia vision and strategy, team structure in South Asia, a brief report of the progress of the Core Missionary Task, gaps and needs, priorities for goers and senders including a pipeline case study, and a job fair.  Participants can meet South Asia affinity leadership to discuss specific jobs.  Becoming a Sending Church will be held from 2 to 5 pm on October 4 and 8:30 am to 4:30 pm on October 5 at Houston’s First Baptist Church.

Preregistration is required for both An Intro to South Asia and Becoming a Sending Church, and seats are limited.  For information about how to register, send an email to

International Mission Board (IMB) exists to serve Southern Baptists in carrying out the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations.

Houston’s First Baptist Church is a thriving and diverse community of real people experiencing real life together.

The post IMB and Houston’s First Baptist Church to Host Free Missions Mobilization Events appeared first on IMB.

The Texas Legislature returns for a second special session, but without a quorum in the House

Texas capitol building image

AUSTIN A second, 30-day special session of the 87th Legislature opened August 7 without a quorum in the House of Representatives as at least two dozen Democrats from that chamber remained in Washington, D.C. to avoid debate on an election reform bill. Despite an idle House, Texas Senators began passing legislation within hours of opening the second session. Those bills can advance quickly to the House once a quorum returns.

“So, it’s one of these things where the Senate very well could have the originating chamber work done as early as Friday or Saturday. So, the question becomes, ‘What’s going to go on in the House?’” Derek Cohen, vice president of policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, told the TEXAN.

Cohen spoke with the TEXAN Monday, Aug. 9, as some Democrats began returning to Austin but the House was still about five members shy of a 100-member quorum.


Democrat defectors, a surge in COVID-19 infections just as school is due to open, and visceral partisan disagreements surrounding the election reform bill threaten to overshadow legislation SBTC members want Texas lawmakers to address.

Cindy Asmussen, advisor to the Texas Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee, urges Christians to press Gov. Greg Abbott, Speaker of the House Dade Phelan and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to add bills to the call and challenge others.

Review the TERLC special session report (PDF) >>

Only the governor can add bills to a special session agenda, also referred to as the call. Asmussen believes that tactic prompted Abbott to add to the call Senate Bill 2. The legislation requires public school students to compete in interscholastic competitions based on their biological sex. Nine states have enacted similar statutes. If passed in Texas, the law would protect female athletes from having to compete against male athletes who identify as female.

On Tuesday, Aug. 9, the Senate approved the bill after its first reading. The chamber scheduled a second reading and vote Aug. 10.

Bills of concern include the Family Violence Prevention Act which requires schools to instruct middle-and-high school students about dating and home violence, and child abuse. Asmussen argues these topics are covered in other areas of instruction and the new curriculum could draw from sexually explicit Comprehensive Sex Education material.

The bill, SB 9, passed out of committee and will go to the Senate floor for a vote. TERLC opposes the legislation.

Senate Bill 123 passed during the regular session and is due to become law Sept. 1. It requires the State Board of Education to “integrate positive character traits and personal skills, rather than positive character traits, into the essential knowledge and skills adopted for kindergarten through grade 12, as appropriate.”

Asmussen admits this bill passed under the TERLC radar. After a more thorough analysis, she said the law incorporates problematic Social and Emotion Learning and ideological notions of “equity,” not equality into classroom instruction and calls for social action.

Corrective measures can be taken to defund or alter the bill, Asmussen said. But that action has to be put on the call.

Other key legislation not on the call is a version of House Bill 166 authored by Rep. Matt Krause, R- Fort Worth. The bill bans so-called gender modification treatment for minors. No long-term research has examined the practice’s toll on the body. The treatment includes chemically blocking the onset of natural puberty and then administering hormones of the opposite sex which causes a child’s body to develop physical characteristics of the opposite sex.

The American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Foundation prescribe gender modification as the only treatment for gender dysphoria. The organizations advocate banning mental health counseling as a means of treatment. In several states it is illegal to provide such counseling to minors.

Critics like Matt Rinaldi, chairman of the Texas Republican Party, call gender modification of minors “child abuse.” And, on Monday, the Texas GOP joined the TERLC in demanding the state ban the practice.

“Every day we wait more Texas children are irreversibly harmed. Rep. Matt Krause has a bill with enough co-authors to pass the Texas House and others are sure to attract majority support on this important issue. I ask Governor Abbott to add it to the call for the second special session,” said Rinaldi.

Abbott has indicated he is considering adding this bill to the call.

Cohen said such politically-charged legislation could end up being a “double-edged sword.”

“Those kinds of issues address a certain need. But I think there’s also a reticence to give the Democrats something that they – at least in the eyes of their base – could stay in DC for. Because now it went from, “We’re in here for voting rights. Or, now, it’s voting rights and trans rights,” he said.

The Democrats twice fled the U.S. Capitol to avoid debate and passage of the Election Integrity bill, SB 1. They did so first in the waning days of the regular session that ended May 31 and, again, just days after the start of the first Special Session that ended Aug. 6.

Republicans hold a majority in both chambers, guaranteeing passage of the bill. But, with enough quorum-busting House Democrats on the lamb, the lower chamber has no quorum. With no quorum, bills idle.

The election bill is not the only item left to die on the special session agenda Cohen said.

Bills on the governor’s call are, mostly, holdovers from the 87th Legislature’s Regular Session. They include the voter reform bill; bail reform; Title X and border security funding; Senate Bill 2 protecting female athletes; and extra funding for teacher retirements, plus, the bills TERLC wants added to the call. Abbott could also include legislation addressing the rise in COVID-19 infections. (Some cities are mounting a legal challenge to Abbott’s executive order prohibiting mask mandates. Challengers to the order say it is necessary, especially as public schools open for in-person learning.)

“You have things that are not advancing, that are bipartisan, such as the bail reform bill that [passed] 27 to 2 in the Senate. That’s quite a quite a spread. And, also, the 13th check for retired teachers. These are things that are largely apolitical, or at the very least, largely bipartisan. And, you know, this is the will of the state that is not being enacted,” Cohen said.

The Democrats’ quorum-busting walkout is not unprecedented. They did it in 2003 and 2009 to avoid passage of new district boundaries. Data from 2020 Census is due to be released this month and some states, like Texas, must redraw voting districts to accommodate population changes. Growth in central and north Texas earned the state two new seats in U.S. House of Representatives.

Abbott must call another special session, perhaps in October, to redraw those lines.

Since Republicans control both chambers of the Texas Legislature, those lines could favor the GOP – and prompt another democratic walkout.

But will they?

Cohen doesn’t expect the current rogue representatives to face backlash in their home districts but he said polling indicates the quorum-busting is “incredibly unpopular.”